Date: Sunday, April 29, 2018
Domestic winemaking goes back 6000 years. Techniques have not changed all that much. The vinedresser cuts back the branches growing from the vine to increase the yield of grapes. In Sacred Scripture “the vine” or “vineyard” is a symbol of Israel. In the Gospel according to St. John, Jesus speaks of being “the vine” and “the branches” are all those who enjoy eternal life in him. The “vinedresser” is God who trims back the green shoots to bear fruit.
We can relate to the image of vine and branches with vineyards doting the lakeshores and Niagara River and for us who enjoy a glass of wine or grape jelly on our toast. Donna & Jim Wieand have a place in the Finger Lakes region named “Branches” where friends and visitors come to be refreshed and to be renewed. Jesus invites us to experience abundant life but at the same time calls us to be fruitful. The “cutting back” is what frightens us. We are not waiting to be trimmed!
Our first reading from ACTS provides the example of the faith community being frightened of Saul even with a new name Paul. The one who persecuted followers of the way now embraces and preaches “the way” to all who listen. There is a great deal of mistrust and disbelief in Paul’s conversion. But Barnabas sees the hand of God. “The church throughout all Judea, Galilee and Samaria was at peace. It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.” St. John in his letter writes about being united to the source of life or to the vine: “Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Holy Spirit he gave us.”
We are going through a difficult and shameful period with revelations of clergy abuse of children and teens. Can we see the hand of God? Recognizing the evil and harm done can we discern the possibility for deep healing and for validation of victims; for greater honesty and accountability dealing with such a betrayal of trust; for shining a “spotlight” on what has been hidden as a dark secret? A time of disgrace is also a season of grace. Jesus is with us. “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”